Thursday, September 9, 2010

Modern Luxuries

As I traveled up to northern Virginia two days ago, I had lots of time in the car to think.  For the most part, Josiah and David were quietly occupied in the backseat with books; and both Tobin and Shav slept for part of the drive, going and coming.  That gave me time to contemplate all kinds of topics.  Like...

Isn't it amazing that some of the biggest dilemmas we face are all a result of the abundance and freedom and luxury in which we live?  If we had lived one or two hundred years ago, or if we lived now but in a different country, we would probably not ever have to deal with the challenges that seem so pressing in our modern life.  For example...

How much time and energy have I exerted, trying to figure out what to do with all our stuff??  I consider my family to be fairly frugal and not overly concerned about material possessions; but regardless, our closets and dressers are filled to overflowing with clothes, our bookshelves sag beneath the weight of our beloved books, the boys do crafts and write on papers that pile up, their toys seem to reproduce at a staggering rate.  I do not know what to do with all our stuff.  And this is not a unique dilemma:  no, in this day and age in this country, the accumulation of stuff is an epidemic, necessitating the building of more storage units and the writing of numerous books and articles on home management.  Not only are there tragic (shocking!) stories of people who actually filled their homes with so much clutter that they perished in the debris, but there is also a terrible amount of stress that we deal with daily, just because of all our stuff.  This is a direct result of luxury.

Or here's another example:  the abundance of food that we have in this country, resulting in a huge (no pun intended) problem with obesity.  The pioneers didn't have to worry about dieting; in fact, at times, they were just grateful to have anything to eat.  Countless people around the world right now never have to give a second thought to whether to follow the South Beach diet or Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or the Cookie diet (what??).  They don't have to think about the strategy of using a smaller plate so you'll eat less...or leaving a few bites of food on your plate to keep from consuming those calories...or chewing slowly so your body will think you're full sooner.  They don't have to try to figure out how to fit a gym membership into the budget...or time for exercising into the schedule.  How much anxiety is expended in our country because of food choices and weight battles?  Another direct result of luxury.

On a different note, we even live in unprecedented luxury when it comes to the Bible.  Never before have so many Bibles been so readily available to so many people.  If I counted the number of Bibles here in our house right now, I'm sure I could easily get to 50; and that's not even taking into account the incredible resources online that I can access with the click of a mouse.  When I think about the history of the Bible and the people who literally gave their lives for it and the people who right now are living in parts of the world where religious freedom is nonexistent and who would dearly love to have a Bible of their very own, I am stunned by my own lack of gratitude.  I realize, too, that many of the arguments that we spiritually-minded Americans engage in are only possible because of the luxury we have.  Take the KJV-only debate:  does a Christian who lives in China and has never had a Bible care which version is placed in his hands?  Or consider the whole which-church-should-I-go-to quandary:  when Charles and Caroline Ingalls (and so many other pioneers) lived close enough to a town to actually participate in worship services, did they say, "Oh, they're Calvinists.  We can't worship with them."  Of course not!  Apparently, we think our luxury gives us a license to argue and bicker and debate the most minute points of theology.

All of these dilemmas (what to do with stuff, how to lose weight, and which church to be a part of) are a very real part of my life these days.  I'm humbled when I realize that the fact that I even have these dilemmas shows just how luxurious my life really is.

Meanwhile, as I ponder these perplexities, I also stop to appreciate other little luxuries I'm blessed by:

~ a spontaneous picnic lunch in the backyard on a beautiful fall(ish) day

~ putting flannel sheets on the bed for the first time in the fall (well, it's almost fall)...I can hardly wait to go to bed tonight!  :)

~ being able to go to the store and buy cilantro so I can make this recipe, even when the cilantro that we planted in the garden shriveled up and died  :)

I am so blessed, and as I think about that tonight, I feel the weight of it.  What I tell my boys is true:  with privilege comes responsibility.


Anonymous said...

Deep thoughts, Davene....I like them! I wish we lived close to each other. I think you would be a great real-life friend and conversationalist!

Marie said...

Enjoyed reading your thoughts Davene,
I have been reading House on The Prairie and it has made me feel and see what an abundance I and most Americans live in. Even the extremely poor are not poor compared to 60 years ago.

P.S. Also wanted to tell you that I am so loving your top picture of the boys and your new background =) so artsy!!

Thanks again
~ Marie

Miriam said...

I keep reading your posts, mostly when I am burping or feeding Marie, so I don't get to comment at the time. I enjoy them all! Thanks for taking the time to write.

I had hoped to come this evening, but I think we'll have to wait for another time. Marie had been doing reasonably well this week---her usual, which is very fussy evenings until she goes to bed. Then, last night she had a lot more fussiness, and crying and fussing a lot through the night, and she's still not normal today. So, we need to keep pretty low-key and close to home, and hopefully I'll get some snatches of sleep sometime today. I really hope we have a better night tonight.

I'm looking forward to attending one of your Bible Studies, whenever the right time comes!

Morning said...

I love this post -- I think so often how blessed I am: to have a soft bed with warm blankets, not to be frightened of violence (either in the home or outside), to have food for my children and good medical care. Even little luxuries, like chocolate and flowers, space and clean air. We are among the world's most fortunate, and I agree that we have a responsibility to appreciate and steward what we have. But also, anything we buy cheaply means that someone far away has lost out with terrible wages or long hours -- I do think we need to think carefully about what we do buy, where it comes from, and how it is produced. If only we could buy well made items that would last, and could be fixed, then paid what they were worth, problems of overconsumption and worker exploitation might be avoided.

Sara @ Embracing Destiny said...

I keep thinking of things to write about, then I click over to your blog and find that you've just read my mind! You express things very eloquently. We just took a family field trip to the Almanzo Wilder farm/homestead so we'd been having conversations about these very topics.

We support the Bible League and I'm always humbled to read the stories of fellow believers in underground/persecuted churches around the world. They are truly living out their faith just in daily survival. Such a contrast to our conspicuous consumption in this country.

If you give a mom some quiet time in the car . . . just look at the deep thoughts! ;0)

Jo Ann said...

I too have had these same thoughts...just not all at the same time. I could write a long cooment, but I'll spare you for now and will just hope that one day we can have a nice, long conversation. :) And I agree with Sara, you put things so eloquently!

Anonymous said...

I've thought along those lines a lot: my ever-expanding waist is because I always have plenty to eat; that I have gutters to clean and a floor to sweep means I have a home to live in; that there are Legos on our floor means we were blessed with children.

Sally said...

Whoops! The post by "Miriam" is really from me, Sally. I didn't realize she was signed in on my computer. Sorry.

Polly said...

So true, in all respects! Luxury can be both a blessing and a millstone. It's a difficult balance, I think, particularly in our culture, which is so *strange!* (The everything-cheap-fast-and-in-abundance mindset.)